One would think the news would be more positive for the No. 17/18 Florida Gators coming off a big win on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies, but head coach Will Muschamp actually spent most of his weekly Monday afternoon press conference delivering plenty of bad news as it pertains to his team’s health.
“We’ve kind of got a saying around here: ‘Man down, man up,'” he said.
Muschamp announced Monday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken thumb) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (fractured foot) will both miss at least a month after being injured against Texas A&M.
Jenkins, who had surgery on Monday, will definitely be out at least for this week’s road game against the Tennessee Volunteers but may be able to return sooner than his timetable dictates if doctors approve a protective device for his hand.
Riggs, however, could be out as long as six weeks depending how his foot heals as doctors said he does not need surgery on the fracture.
Freshman LB Antonio Morrison will take over for Jenkins as the starter at Will, but the Gators will also see plenty of redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor in a reserve role at both inside positions. Junior Darrin Kitchens will also have a bigger role in the defense.
Defensive backs sophomore Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Valdez Showers both filled in for Riggs on Saturday and will continue doing so in the near future. Junior Matt Elam will likely transition back to playing much more safety while junior Jaylen Watkins, who moved into the starting cornerback role last week, will take over at nickel.
The bad news continued as Muschamp added that junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in April during the team’s spring game and hoped to return sometime in October, re-injured his knee while rehabbing and will likely miss the remainder of the season.
“He is being reevaluated next week. He has got some swelling on the knee. We took the MRI – probably a little too much swelling to tell really where he is right now,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to reevaluate him next week. Very disappointing for him. Really a setback as far as where he is and where we thought he would be at this point as excelled as his rehab has gone.
“Talking to him [Monday] morning and his parents throughout the weekend, more than likely Ronald will redshirt this year. It’s just disappointing for him, a guy that mentally has been a rock, just been amazing in how he’s handled the process. And again, he’s handled it very well. The diagnosis is not totally final yet; we want to look at it again next week. Certainly it has put a speed bump in the recovery process. Very disappointed for him and us.”
Not all was negative on the injury front.
Senior running back Mike Gillislee, who has four of his team’s five touchdowns this season and appeared to hurt his groin while scoring in the fourth quarter on Saturday, only “strained” the muscle and will be able to practice all week.
“He’s going to be fine. He’ll be fine for this weekend,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to practice [Monday]. We just had a staff meeting and they said he is going to practice, so I think he should be fine. We probably won’t rep him 40 times [in practice]. We’ll make sure he’s ready to go for Saturday [and] we feel like he’s fully available.”
Senior safety Josh Evans (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (cramps) are both good to go as well.
Florida will also get sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders (hamstring, suspension) and freshman tight end Kent Taylor (concussion) back for the Tennessee game though redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (strained pectoral) will probably be out until the bye week (at least two more weeks).